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Friday, June 24, 2016

Political Navel-gazing

So Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Scott Aaronson, and Leonard Susskind have all now weighed in very publicly to essentially denounce Donald Trump (and many others have voiced shorter, but similar, sentiments through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and the like). Four folks I'd never feel too bad being in agreement with ;-)

I'm still not convinced Trump will get his party's nomination (is the Republican Party establishment reeeeally that craaaazy? -- granted, in the near-term they may wreck their party either way: nominating Trump or denying him the nomination; their best hope is for him to become disabled, forcing another choice)... but if he does get nominated, the lengthy parade of brilliant minds springing forth to castigate him may be unlike anything ever seen in American politics... not merely because he is obviously narcissistic, misogynistic, bigoted, incompetent, hedonistic, naive, dishonest, inconsistent, simplistic, egocentric, and ignorant... but, because many surmise he is mentally-ill in some psycho-or-socio-pathic sense, and dangerous (...but hey, nobody's perfect!). 

STEM people often leave politics outside their public personae, viewing it as a private matter held separate from their profession. This year could be very different. Albert Einstein  famously spoke out on various political and philosophical fronts. Perhaps the time is long overdue for today's prominent scientists to also be more actively/loudly involved. Maybe they'd just be preaching to the choir... but just maybe enough Americans will listen when their most brilliant, creative, productive, insightful minds speak up in concert, out of genuine concern for their nation's future.

Muppet Beaker (via Wikipedia) refusing to release his tax returns

ADDENDUM:  I wrote the above yesterday for posting this morning... and now wake up to find 'Brexit' approved in Britain. Incredible! World stock markets are expected (at least temporarily) to plummet. David Cameron is resigning. Uncertainties about other EU members now become quickly more real. The anger of the 95% against the 5% is worldwide, and reminiscent of 1930s German mentality, looking for scapegoats as targets for that anger. 
Some even speculate this all helps Trump's campaign... shake things up, just for the sake of shaking things up, because hey, trying to do things rationally hasn't exactly been a booming success... so goes the visceral logic of the masses.  ANY change is better than the status quo.
When the 2008 crash happened I told friends I believed we were in for essentially a 20+ year recession; it seemed clear it would require a generation to correct the long baked-in maladies of our banking and corporate system. But perhaps I underestimated the degree and scope of the problems. In fact, maybe what we call "recession" is simply the new "normal."
We live in bizarre times. Rocky days ahead. But at least have a good weekend! ;-)